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Worship Considerations for Omicron Variant Surge

Three congregations recently have modified their worship practices as a result of the omicron variant surge. Feel free to adopt their language in whole or part as you consider your church's approach to keeping your community safe.

  • Salisbury Church, Midlothian
  • First Church, Richmond
  • Grace Covenant Church, Overland Park, Kansas

Salisbury Church, Midlothian 

Salisbury Church in Midlothian’s COVID Task Force is composed of the pastors and congregational members in the medical field. Here is a portion of the statement they distributed on January 6:

  1. We are returning to masks being worn at all times in the building regardless of vaccination status. Please put on your mask before we enter the building and make sure that your mask is covering your nose and mouth at all times. Worship leaders will also remain masked. We encourage the use of non-woven masks like n95.
  2. Because we are masking at all times, eating and drinking are not possible in the church. When we celebrate communion we will take the elements out of the building before partaking of them. As our God transcends time and space, this will serve as a reminder that our worship continues when we go out into the world to be the presence of Christ in the world around us.
  3. We are reaffirming our commitment to physical distancing. The ribbons are again blocking off every other pew and the dowel rods are back in the pews to help us keep appropriate physical distance from people outside our household.
  4. We are reducing the length of time gathered in a given space. We will be singing one verse of each hymn for now (remaining masked).

The last thing we need to inform you about is not a change but a decision to stick with our current policy. We are aware of the CDC’s change to its guidance on isolation timeframe and the questions surrounding that change. As a task force, we think it is wise to wait for the Virginia Department of Health and/or the World Health Organization to confirm that change before we change our policies. So, if you tested positive for Covid in the last 10 days, please stay home. If you had exposure to someone with Covid in the last 10 days, please stay home. And as always, if you have any symptoms of Covid (fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, loss of taste or smell), please stay home.

To recap:

-Mask properly at all times
-No food or drink
-Maintain physical distancing
-Shorter time together

The psalmist reminds us that we have every right to pour the complaints of our hearts out to God, knowing that we will be heard.

‘With my voice I cry to the Lord;
with my voice I make supplication to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before God;
I tell my trouble before God.
When my spirit is faint,
You know my way.’  Psalm 142:1-3a

We join all of our voices together in lament of these changes and pray they may be short-lived. These changes are temporary and the task force looks forward to lifting them as soon as it is safe to do so. We encourage you to lament these changes with us. We have every reason to lift the complaint of our plight to the Lord. And God will be with us through this storm too, giving us strength and determination to find a way forward.”

First Church, Richmond

First Church posted the following on their website on December 30:

Due to the rapid rise of the highly infectious Omicron variant of Covid in our community, the Session has accepted a recommendation from the Coronavirus Task Force to pause in-person worship on January 2 and January 9, at least. Please join us in worship via livestream on FPC’s YouTube channel, at 10am Sunday morning, or you may view a recording anytime thereafter.

As throughout the pandemic, the task force has been closely monitoring several indicators – the percent positivity rate and the number of cases per 100,000. The rapid rise in these indicators is a clear signal that we have entered a new phase at this time. We will continue to monitor the evolving conditions and make adjustments as needed, to ensure that we are safeguarding the health of our members, friends, and visitors. For the time being, please check the church’s website for updates before you make plans to come to the church for any in-person events.

Thank you, as always, for your patience and understanding.

Grace Covenant Church, Overland Park, Kansas

Grace Covenant Church, which Fred Holbrook served before coming to Presbytery of the James, released this message in early January:

Due to the dramatic surge in COVID-19 infections in our area and nationwide, the Session has decided that for the next month Grace Covenant will return to virtual on-line worship ONLY until February 6. This is also true for adult, youth, and children’s classes (except there will be NO children’s classes on Sunday. January 9).

We make this decision not only because of public information, but because a number of members and families have had positive COVID tests despite being fully vaccinated and bolstered. Add to that the many unvaccinated children in our congregation, and it only seems prudent to take this precaution.